Taking care of a disabled person is like walking a tightrope. You want to give them the freedom they desire, but at the same time, you are well aware of the fact that their ability to discern what is best for them has been impaired. They are not the best at judging their own health needs nor are they capable of handling things they have long been accustomed to doing. So, where do you draw the line?
It’s about allowing them to enjoy a certain quality of life. In order to do that, you need to afford them some level of dignity and control; however, understanding how to do that without putting themselves or their health in jeopardy is not always easy.
How to Give Them Control
We often forget that we are not working with large-sized children. These are people who for the better part of their lives had a certain level of autonomy. They made decisions for themselves, chose what to wear, what to eat, and where to go. Now, because of their disability, they are not able to perform the same activities they once used to do. Still, this doesn’t mean that they have lost that inner desire to make decisions for themselves. They still want to have a say in how their lives progress.
Without at least a small amount of control over their lives, no matter how good the quality of their care is, they will not be happy. They will feel as if they have been stripped of their dignity as a human being. Imagine how much more difficult it is when they find themselves in a position where their own children have stepped up and started making decisions for them. This aspect alone could be a blow to their emotional well-being.
Younger caretakers often fail to understand this. The reason being that they could be a danger to themselves and as a result should not be allowed any form of autonomy. However, studies have shown that when disabled seniors are given some kind of say in what happens to them, their treatment, and a freedom of choice, they tend to fare much better than one that has been stripped of his or her dignity.
As the baby boomer generation continues to advance in age, the number of disabled seniors is only going to increase. All of us need to learn how to do more than treat their individual ailments and start focusing on the whole person. By understanding how to assess their quality of life and determine ways to help them to feel more important, and a part of the process rather than someone we do something to, we can empower them. Whenever possible, listen to them, gather what’s important to them, and give them whatever tools they need in order to have the best life possible. We may not be able to give them back their youth, mobility, and total freedom, but we will be able to help them to feel like a real person again and that can go a lot further than any medical treatment ever could.
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